Every so often it’s necessary for a brand to take a step back and look at what’s working well and what isn’t. Whether it’s a change to the menu or kitchen operations, small improvements can refresh a restaurant.
A few years ago, SPIN! Pizza went through an aggressive expansion. While the expansion went great, co-founder Ed Brownell, along with the rest of SPIN!’s leadership, felt something was missing in the concept. Brownell says simply, “We just thought we could do a better job.”
SPIN! Pizza decided to put the power of change in the hands of its customers. By giving customers a chance to give direct feedback about the company, it was able to collect valuable data that helped shaped its decision to rebrand over the past year. After getting back the results of a consumer survey, the 15-year-old brand decided it was time to rethink what it stood for and what it could be. Instead of making small changes over time, the brand decided to take on a massive rebrand all at once.
“That survey came back late in 2017 and then that prompted us to take a look at our brand what we were doing,” Brownell says. “Then we spent a lot of time formulating what we felt SPIN! should look like moving forward that was kind of the driving thought process behind the dramatic change we made”
The biggest change guests will notice was the name change, co-founder Ed Brownell says. Originally SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza, it dropped “Neapolitan” as leadership felt it wasn’t necessary anymore.
“When we started 15 years ago there really wasn’t any specialty Neapolitan-style pizza,” Brownell says. “We felt like it was important at that time to differentiate ourselves from everybody else.”
He adds, “I think 15 years ago if we would have said SPIN! Pizza we would have just been another pizza place, but I think calling it SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza separated us and helped people to understand that we were trying to take an authentic Italian product and bring it to America. But now there’s a lot of that pizza and I don’t think you need to have that kind of distinction for people to see that to try your product.”
Pizza is one of the fastest-growing segments in the limited-service industry. By simplifying the name, Brownell believes, it will allow the company to expand its offerings beyond pizza. SPIN! joins other brands, like Domino’s and Dunkin’, which simplified their names in order to expand and explore different product offerings. Brownell says, “We just think that the simpler name will make it easier to expand our brand.”
“Our guests told us that they didn’t really see SPIN! as a wine place that they came for bottles of wine. What they wanted was just good wine.” — SPIN! cofounder Ed Brownell.
For SPIN!, pizza is still the main focus of the menu. However, other areas, like sandwiches and salads, will have more of a chance to shine. The Arugula and Chopped BLT salads are no longer on the official menu, but most locations have the ingredients to make them if guests make a request.
“You know our sandwiches and salads are a very big part of the business. We had three salads that we rolled out in a program last summer we kept the cobb salad, which was very popular so we want to continue to push salads as a big part of our deal.”
Last summer, SPIN!’s tested new menu items, which were developed by James Beard Award-Winning Chef Michael Smith, at its Main Street Kansas City location. Smith edited the sandwich selection and created new sandwiches for SPIN!. The brand partnered with Kansas City’s Farm to Market Bread Company to provide bread for the new sandwich line.
The new additions include the Turkey Bacon Avocado, which is made with mayo, slices of turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, lettuce, onions, and white Cheddar cheese on top of a Farm-to-Market baguette; and the Italian, which is comprised of thinly sliced Genoa salami, soppressata, capicola, and black forest ham, then layered with mayo, red wine vinegar, olive oil, classic Provolone, lettuce, crisp onions, and juicy tomatoes piled high on a toasted baguette.
“We feel like have great sandwiches, but we had a deli line of sandwiches and a panini line,” Brownell says. “We just changed the deli line to more traditional deli sandwiches.”
The new menu also featured a new 14-inch pizza option, in addition to the original 12-inch and 7-inch pizza sizes, which has been a popular choice since it landed on the menu systemwide a few months ago.
Customers experienced some difficulty with SPIN!’s original menu. Most of the original offerings were in Italian to stay on brand with the Neapolitan concept. This menu layout left customers feeling overwhelmed, Brownell says.
“We streamlined the menu,” Brownell says. “We made it a little easier to read and we took our pizzas and changed them to the English version of the name.”
During the Main Street Kansas City test last summer, SPIN! decided to try new ways for guests to interact with its wine program. Customers just didn’t see the brand as a place they would order a bottle of wine, Brownell says.
Without sacrificing the quality of the wine, SPIN! rolled out a program that eliminated the bottle program and allowed customers to order a glass of wine at an affordable price.
Brownell says, “Our guests told us that they didn’t really see SPIN! as a wine place that they came for bottles of wine. What they wanted was just good wine.”
Some locations, where it’s allowed by law, guests can bring in their own bottles of wine for a small $5 corking fee.
“We improved the quality of the wine without making a significant price increase and we eliminated the bottles, so now we have glasses of wine, and carafes of wine,” Brownell adds.
The Main Street location test lasted about four months and further helped the brand make a few more tweaks and pin down the final. The new changes have made their way into all SPIN! locations over the past few months.
While customers are likely to notice the cosmetic changes, the overall experience has not drastically changed, Brownell says. After ordering at the counter, customers can still choose a sit-down dining experience where servers bring out dishes in stages like a multi-course meal.
“In terms of the way that SPIN! works and engages with the guests that hasn’t changed,” Brownell says.
In the summer of 2019, SPIN! will open the first location since rebranding in Topeka. Growth is important for the company, but Brownell says the company is currently focused on making sure “all of our restaurants are executing at a high level so that we’re confident that our guests are getting a good experience.”
“We feel like the experience is very important and we spent a lot of time focusing on that,” he adds.
SPIN!’s website was also revamped in the rebranding process. Customers will find it easier to order online. Whether or not the new site will help expand that part of the business will take time to judge, Brownell says.
“[Customers] like the way that the website works and if you try to order a pizza it’s much easier to place an order online, whether or not that’s going to grow our online business or not only time will tell but we certainly think it will,” Brownell says.